Plan B lockdown. This time your staff will miss the office.

Plan B Lockdown. This time your staff will miss the office.

Remember the first lockdown? Aside from the concerns about the virus, there was excitement for many about working from home. It was a novelty that promised a better work:life balance and no commuting.

Two years later the reality is starting to hit. Silo information, weak company culture, Zoom fatigue, loneliness and vulnerable staff at risk.

Some of us have begun to miss the occasional dip into office life. On day two of Plan B Lockdown, the BBC interviewed people who were already missing the office. One person was quoted as saying “It is just nice – getting up, getting dressed and going to work. It is different from just walking downstairs.”

To discover if the gloss is rubbing off remote working, we conducted a survey in September 2021. We asked, “When you next look for an office job, what type of work would you prefer?” Just 20% stated they wanted fully remote work where they never attend an office.

35% of staff say office is best for collaboration & creativity

During the Plan B Lockdown, many companies will impose fully remote work on their employees, and it will be tempting to continue after the lockdown is lifted. Our view is February 2021 is the earliest we can expect a relaxation of the new rules.

Although being fully remote during a rising pandemic may make sense, as a long-term strategy it fails to take into account staff preferences.

In our report Hybrid Working 2021; Manager’s & Employee’s View’ we asked staff “Why do you think attending the office is important?” The most popular answer was collaboration and creativity (35% of respondents).

A close second was simply for a change of scenery (30% of respondents), followed by company culture (19%).

Plan B Lockdown is a fun sponge

Note how all the important issues for staff relate to the enjoyment of work. Collaboration and creativity are often seen as the fun part of working – meeting with colleagues to share ideas, agreeing on creative solutions and enjoying the energy in the room.

The fact that a change of scenery also scored highly demonstrates how working from home every day can become mundane and dull. Even the dreaded commute can be enjoyed if it means you don’t spend all day propping your laptop on a sofa cushion. (Not everyone has the luxury of a home office).

Getting out of the house and into the office breaks the routine and for some will make the working week more enjoyable.

It’s interesting that employees recognised the office is important for company culture, placing it third on their list. While maintaining team culture may be possible when working remotely, if you are not having ‘accidental conversations’ with members of other teams you can lose company culture. It’s easy to fall into a ‘them and us’ state of mind.

Perhaps the people who will miss the office the most during a lockdown are those who do not have a happy home life. For them, the office can be a safe space. This should be a major consideration for any company considering fully remote as a long-term strategy.

Just as 100% remote does not work, neither does 100% office. Candidates are looking for the best of both worlds (51% of candidates according to our research).

So hybrid is the obvious solution. But true hybrid working is not about offering staff the chance to work from home every Friday. Genuine hybrid working gives staff the choice of what days they work in the office each week. It harmonises that with the needs of the organisation.

Our report, ‘Hybrid Working 2021; Manager’s & Employee’s View’, provides evidence on remote, office and hybrid working so you can make informed decisions. Click the link above to download it and prepare for a welcome return to the office.